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Big Tumbling Creek Trout

The heavily shaded pools make for active trout on Big Tumbling Creek.

By Bruce Ingram

Photos by Bruce Ingram

Virginia hosts three fee fishing for trout waters: Douthat Lake, Crooked Creek, and Clinch Mountain. If you like plying classic mountain rills with plunge pools, pocket water, and runs, there’s no question which one you’ll prefer – Clinch Mountain and its signature attraction, Big Tumbling Creek, plus two major tributaries, Briar Cove Creek and Laurel Bed Creek. Together, the three streams sport sublime trout habitat in a setting replete with rhododendron and tree-shaded pools and cold, clear water.

An image of a large white flower with multiple blooms atop long smooth deep green leaves;

Great rhododendron adds to the charm of Big Tumbling Creek.

“The Clinch Mountain Fee Area is stocked four times per week from the first Saturday in April through September 30th,” says Steve Owens, DWR Fisheries Biologist in Marion. “A basic freshwater fishing license in addition to an $8 daily permit is required. No trout license is needed. Roughly seven miles of stream are included in the fee area, which are broken down into four sections that are stocked on different schedules.  Trout fishing is very good throughout the entire fee season, and opportunities exist for anglers to catch trophy trout.  Refer to our website for more detailed info.”

Tommy Cundiff operates River Monster Guide Service but also frequently gravitates to Big Tumbling Creek, which lies west of Saltville on Route 613.

“The two lower sections, A and B, have classic pocket water and probably get the most fishing pressure,” Cundiff says. “Section C consists of basically a mountain gorge with very steep sides and lots of plunge pools. It doesn’t get as much fishing pressure because it’s harder to access. Section D is at the top of the mountain.”

The guide says that on his most recent visit to Big Tumbling he caught and released 17 trout from Section C.

“Section C is my favorite of the four,” Cundiff says. “I really enjoy the mountain setting and fishing below all those little waterfalls. I think C also gives fishermen a better chance to catch holdover trout.”

Cundiff says when he spin fishes he uses spinners and Powerbait. When fly fishing, he employs Sizes 6 and 8 hopper and streamer patterns.

At this writing, there is a road blockade where Section B ends and C begins. Temporary access to Laurel Bed Lake (at the top of the mountain) is being provided via the Flattop Mountain Road. For more information on fishing and the road closing: Marion DWR regional office, 276-783-4860,

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  • July 10, 2019